Chain snatching is a run-of-the-mill offence in metropolitan cities, a menace that police forces everywhere attempt to combat. However, a burglary by a notorious, dagger-wielding criminal in the heart of the city, is quite another matter. The culprit, Dastagir, a dangerous offender, attacked five people, including two policemen as they chased him down M.G. Road. The incident reflects the dire state of women's safety in the heart of the city and the impunity with which notorious criminals commit offences even in the vicinity of patrol vehicles, reports Shweta Singh
Bengaluru police have never shirked away from upping the ante on chain-snatchers, a perpetual menace in the city. Their tactics range from intensive-patrolling to more radical initiatives like distributing scarves to neighbourhood women. However, chain-snatchers have proved hard to subdue. Despite the watchful climate, a woman was stabbed twice by a chain-snatcher on M.G. Road, sending shockwaves through the city with regard to the perpetrator's boldness and raising questions about the efficacy of police.
In this case, the accused, Dastagir, was a known offencer with a rap sheet that contained over 12 cases. How then was a notorious rowdy allowed to roam the streets in broad daylight, carrying a dagger. "This was not a failure on the part of the police," said a senior officer. "A patrolling vehicle was nearby when the incident took place. Soon after the alert was sounded, the cops joined the public in their chase," he sasid. Two policemen were attacked by the miscreant and sustained injuries. "Nonetheless, he was caught by Nagesh, a police constable with the district armed reserve police (DARP). He was on M.G. Road when he noticed the man running and chased him down. The department will reward Nagesh for his work."
Despite the claims made by police, the streets of Bengaluru are no safer for their efforts. "Where will women go if they aren't even safe in a place like M.G. Road? A man carrying a knife walks up to the victim, threatens and stabs her before fleeing. The police need to ensure such incidents are kept at bay," said Rama G., a resident of Infantry Road.
Incidentally, the spot where the crime occurred houses government offices and is no more than half a kilometer away from the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Victim too petrified to leave her house
The waves of fear that followed the attack have left the victim and her family in total shock. A day after the incident, Rani (name changed), has been refusing to leave her house, even to make a visit to Cubbon Park police station.
“The children have not gone to the school today. They are petrified and have refused to step out of the house. They have been crying non stop and refusing to leave our side since last night,” said one of Rani’s relatives.
The victim’s family member said that the M.G. Road Boulevard is an oft-frequented spot. “We were regulars at the Children’s Park too. What happened yesterday has shocked us deeply. My sister hasn’t been able to come to terms with it and she has small children who need looking after.”
According to relatives, no CCTVs had been installed around the spot where the incident took place. Security guards nearby were either unarmed or incapable of dealing with such a situation. When DC contacted BMRCL, Vasanth Rao, chief spokesperson, said, “The incident took place around 7.30 pm. It was around the time the Boulevard was being closed. The accused had not come through the main entrance, he had jumped the fence instead.”
Mr. Rao added, “Everything happened in the course of a few seconds. The accused had been noticing the woman for some time. He brandished the knife and reprimanded her, demanding that she surrender. The woman raised the alarm and, gripped by the fear of being caught, the accused attacked her with his knife and jumped the fence. Three security guards from the Metro station chased him till Church Street, where others joined the chase and a constable in mufti caught him.”
According to metro official, a Hoysala was present at the time of the incident. “We urged the lady to go to Bowring hospital in the Hoysala and get medical aid. However, she refused and said, she would go with her family. If, the lady hadn’t reported the matter to police, we would have approached Cubbon park police ourselves and have reported the matter,” added the officer.
Guest Column: Fast bikes, female victims: We need better vigilance
Chain snatching is a menace that has affected the metropolitan cities and Bengaluru is no exception. Usually, these crimes are committed by assailants who operate in groups of three or four. However, some professional gangs are also known to do this.
The crime has become easier to commit, especially with the absence of police in certain remote areas, quick means of arrival and exit available to culprits in the form of fast-moving motorcycles and the availability of opportunities for the prompt disposal of stolen goods. These factors have increased the frequency and daring of chain snatchers. The fact that the victims are generally women, who don’t usually resist, has made the job of the culprits quite easy. The use of brute violence at the time of carrying out the offence, however, is a different matter and must be taken very seriously.
Police do keep a strict vigilance on known and suspected chain snatchers. However, the high value of gold has made it lucrative enough to draw culprits from different parts of the country to come here, commit a series of offences and then return to their original destinations. This tendency has made the task of detection that much more onerous. Citizens, women in particular, need to be educated with regard to their rights of private defence which even extend to causing the death of culprits in case violence is being used for committing the offence.
Citizens need to be encouraged to use this right without hesitation. Police must register all cases of chain snatching as robberies and not as thefts or miscellaneous cases. A strict watch needs to be kept on pawn brokers who receive the robbed property and they have to be dealt with along with perpetrators. Strict vigilance needs to be maintained at bus stands, railway stations and even airports. Co-operation with neighbouring states and between various metropolitan cities will help trace inter-state gangs.
The use of force is also known. Rogue culprits will not hesitate to resist arrest and are known to use force against arresting officers. While proceeding with the arrest of a suspect, police need to go fully armed and use necessary force without hesitation if needed. Detected cases should be diligently investigated and chargesheeted within three months. Bail applications should be opposed by duly producing the criminal history of the arrested persons. The Bengaluru City Police are very capable and I am confident they will suppress the menace of chain snatching soon, and do so with a heavy hand. --Shankar Bidari, IPS
Former Director General and Inspector General of Police